According to Haaretz’s political commentator Yossi Verter (אל תעשה לו את זה, תחשוב על ההשפלה האדירה, אמר המקורב לבנט), last Tuesday evening, after the White House had officially announced the date of President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel, MK Nir Orbach, who was on his way to a family vacation in the north, received a call from a very close associate of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who pleaded with the angry MK to suspend his vote in favor of dissolving the Knesset at least until after the visit.
“Don’t do this to him,” Bennett’s emissary begged Orbach. “Think of the tremendous humiliation if he won’t be the one to greet the president at the foot of Air Force 1 at Ben Gurion Airport.”
According to the Lapid-Bennett coalition agreement, if the right-wing factions bring down the government, the alternate prime minister––Yair Lapid––would take the helm through the election and the negotiations for a new government. If the government is toppled by the left, then Bennett stays on.
According to Kan 11 News’ Michael Shemesh, MK Orbach and Prime Minister Bennett met five times in recent days, and despite their past close relationship, their conversations turned into shouting matches. Orbach walked out angrily on one of those meetings, and Bennett’s latest chief of staff, Eden Bisman, was sent to chase after Orbach and bring him back to the room. Orbach acquiesced at that time. According to Shemesh, Orbach was accusing his party leader of scheming a deal with the Joint Arab List to support his collapsing coalition at least through Biden’s visit and the end of the Knesset’s summer session.
Their conversations became very personal: Bennett slammed Auerbach, saying, “The government is excellent. You want to destroy everything we have built. I brought you to the Knesset.”
Orbach shot back: “Thanks to me you’re sitting in this chair. For a year I’ve been warning you this can’t go on. I want to end it today.”
In the car, Orbach heard Bennett’s man asking him what he thinks his departure and the fall of the government would do to the right. Prime Minister Lapid will be in election mode, he’ll appeal to his base. He’ll remain silent when Biden mentions the settlers’ violence, he will promise a Palestinian state and the evacuation of Homesh – over which Bennett has been fighting against Defense Minister Benny Gantz and managed to suspend the evacuation for the time being.
All the credit that Bennett has accumulated in the past year, everything that he has sown and watered and nurtured, everything will fall as a ripe fruit into Lapid’s hands, Bennett’s man warned Orbach. In any event, if the unhappy MK wanted to dissolve the Knesset he should wait a month, until after Biden leaves, and maybe a solution could be found by then. “We’re on it,” the man promised.
Orbach listened but did not commit.
The next day, Bennett summoned to his office three leaders of the center-left coalition factions: Ram Shefa (Labor), Eitan Ginzburg (Blue & White), and Michal Rosin (Meretz). All three are on friendly terms with Orbach. I was wrong, Bennett told them, I need your help. The three followed up with dense meetings with Orbach. Last Sunday, they drove to Orbach’s home in Petah Tikvah but he wasn’t there, so they sat and chatted with his wife, Merav. According to Verter, one of Orbach’s motivations to help dissolve the Knesset and then be placed in a realistic spot on the Likud slate with the promise of a ministerial post is his new home. The Orbachs are dealing with a big mortgage, and Nir has to have a well-paying job.
On Monday, Orbach issued a press release saying that after a week of meetings with the prime minister and other officials, “I have come to the conclusion that the coalition cannot continue to exist in its current conduct,” and “unfortunately the coalition today is not fulfilling its mission.”
“We have completely failed to lift the spirits of the people and this is the main task of the government, any government,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, a demonstration of support for the government in front of Nir Orbach’s house that Yamina activists had been planning was canceled, because Orbach is vacationing with his family up north.
According to Walla on Thursday (בליכוד מנסים לקדם עם אורבך את עסקת הפרישה, הוא מסנן את השיחות מהם), the Likud has been pushing MK Orbach to help them bring down the Lapid-Bennett government, but he is avoiding them (vacation, up north, you know), mostly because he suspects Netanyahu is not looking to forge a government with the right-wing MKs in both the opposition and the coalition, but simply wants to dissolve the Knesset and go to new elections which the polls say he would win big – if not with a solid 61-seat majority.
Orbach is not interested in jumping into the fire in exchange for promises of a great slot and big ministerial office from Netanyahu. Mother Orbach did not raise a fool.